ELIZABETH HEINEMAN. Before Porn Was Legal: The Erotica Empire of Beate Uhse. JOSIE MCLELLAN. Love in the Time of Communism: Intimacy and Sexuality in the GDR.by K. Canning

The American Historical Review

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Year
2013
DOI
10.1093/ahr/118.2.610
Subject
Archaeology / History / Museology

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1956 to return all diplomatic records—an agreement in part triggered by Soviet releases of captured documents to East Germany in 1955 and only after a commission of U.S. historians initiated the microfilming of the originals out of concern that Germans would reclassify documents. Remarkably, Bonn never argued that the records were needed in order to prosecute war criminals, an argument the Allies would certainly have found convincing. Instead, the two main arguments put forward were “administrative necessity and historical research” (p. 376).

The last chapter is the most captivating. It connects the diplomatic negotiations to the actual content of the records. The Allied publication project Documents on

German Foreign Policy, 1918–1945 captured the attention of diplomats, archivists, and historians for years.

The British, French, and American editors were charged with publishing a multivolume selection of captured German documents in order to prevent the creation of another stab-in-the-back legend and to expose the criminal nature of the Nazi system. Most West German historians, led by Gerhard Ritter, rejected the effort as “foreign” and felt they were “being deprived of the nation’s history” (p. 296). The petty arguments surrounding the offer to appoint a German coeditor led to nothing in the end. Some of the most stunning archival findings are presented in the last section on “archival micropolitics” (p. 363), which details how beginning in the early 1960s the Politisches Archiv and the Bundesarchiv regulated and restricted access especially, but not only, for scholars from the Soviet sphere of influence.

In her conclusion, Eckert praises the Allied treatment of the records as an act of “profound importance for historical research” in general and German historiography in particular (p. 379). She reminds German archivists and historians who share this view today that their colleagues in the 1950s were deeply suspicious and resentful of Allied arguments and actions. These resentments mirrored a nationalistic and chauvinistic mindset that persisted among many Germans at the time. Exemplary of this mindset is a statement by Gotthold Starke, director of the German Eastern Affairs

Desk at the Auswa¨rtiges Amt, who suggested denying a researcher access to files about the occupation of Poland because he would get to see them all in London anyway (the fact that the Allies had filmed all the originals before returning them profoundly wounded many archivists’ professional honor). This, Starke thought, was more tolerable to Germans “in so far as they were not themselves cutting the branch with which they will be whipped” (p. 371). It is thus fully justified for Eckert to conclude with a counter-factual thought: if it had not been for the Allied “archival theft” (Ritter), many currently available documents might not exist anymore— and neither would the stories they tell.

CHRISTINA MORINA

University of Jena

ELIZABETH HEINEMAN. Before Porn Was Legal: The Erotica Empire of Beate Uhse. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2011. Pp. xi, 225. $35.00.

JOSIE MCLELLAN. Love in the Time of Communism: Intimacy and Sexuality in the GDR . New York: Cambridge

University Press. 2011. Pp. x, 239. Cloth $85.00, paper $29.99.

These two books situate sexuality in and beyond the domains of state intervention or imagination and link life-worlds and daily practices to representations, ideologies, and law. As such, they attest to the recent advances in the history of sexuality outlined by Dagmar

Herzog in a 2009 review in this journal. In both books sexuality is constitutive of the changing relations between state and society: the sexual behavior and practices, desires, and dispositions of East and West Germans changed the terms of citizenship, the meanings of family, and the culture of mass consumption. Elizabeth

Heineman and Josie McLellan agree that sex was a vital part of how Germans experienced the immediate aftermath of defeat, occupation, and division; their yearning to return to normalcy was reflected in rising rates of marriage, divorce, and birth and a desperate quest for condoms and contraceptive information. Reordering sexuality became a key task of governance as both German states imposed new laws restricting birth control and abortion and offering incentives for marriage and childbirth. The sexual-moral codes that had formed in the two German states by the early 1950s shared pronatalist dimensions but differed in how they cast family and motherhood, church and state, citizenship, consumption, and women’s waged labor. Heineman and McLellan chart the liberalization of these codes through sexual revolutions that took place under different terms in the two Germanies and that rendered the “world of 1975 unrecognizable from the perspective of 1950” (Heineman, p. 1).

In Before Porn was Legal Heineman argues that sexuality played a crucial role in the process of “learning liberalism” in West Germany during the 1950s and 1960s. When moral purity campaigns sought to restrict the circulation of youth-endangering texts in the 1950s, a fundamental conflict erupted over the state’s role in upholding the sexual-moral order. The principles of a free press and free market prevailed over censorship, affirming the liberal notion of a mature and self-regulating citizenry, and distancing West Germany both from its Nazi past and the communist states in the East.

Not only the state’s reluctance to censor, but also the desire of consumers to improve their sex lives, impelled the booming consumption of erotica of the 1950s and 1960s, which Heineman terms a “sex wave.” By the early 1960s hundreds of thousands of German households participated in the traffic in erotica—texts and images, sex manuals and sex aids, lingerie and contraceptives— that became the hallmark of mail-order firms like Beate

Uhse. Heineman brilliantly entwines the life story of

Beate Rotermund—war widow, mother, and one-time 610 Reviews of Books